Kirkley & Pakefield boss Paul Tong not about to relax
Kirkley & Pakefield boss Paul Tong admitted he won't rest easy until the Royals are mathematically certain to remain in the Ridgeons Premier Division next season.
Kirkley's six-match unbeaten run in the league came to an end at home to Ely last weekend and, although they look to have enough to ensure they don't get embroiled in a relegation fight, Tong has warned his side they cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal.
'Until it's mathematically impossible for us to go down I won't sleep easy,' said the former Great Yarmouth boss. 'I'm hard on them but it's vital that we stay in this division. I will be looking to add one or two new faces and we've got some great youth players coming through.
'But we aren't creating enough chances at the moment. When I came in we were leaking too many goals but we've managed to shore things up a bit now but perhaps at the expense of the creativity. We need to find a balance and we will – Rome wasn't built in a day.'
Tong admitted his side were outclassed on Saturday against an Ely side trying to chase down Wroxham at the top of the league.
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'I thought we got battered to be honest – they were the better side. We were only kept in the game by some good defending and Jordan (Smith) making some excellent saves.
'At half-time I read the riot act – I just didn't think we were doing enough to unsettle Ely. Perhaps after the game at Lowestoft it was a match too far for us. We put a lot into that game and a few of the lads were still feeling the effects of it at the weekend.'
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Although Kirkley were second best for long periods, the game's defining moment came at 1-0 when substitute Kyle Baker was brought down by goalkeeper Lee Pacey inside the penalty area. However, the referee decided the offence was outside the penalty area before giving Pacey his marching orders.
'It wasn't the right decision but referees don't make the wrong decisions deliberately, it was a mistake and these things happen,' said Tong. 'Even after that we still didn't really do enough. They scored a wonder goal to make it 2-0 in a hectic end and Baker pulled one back for us late on.
'I suppose it showed how far we have come. Ely are a very good side and deserve to be challenging at the top, but they were delighted to beat us and knew they had been in a game.'
Baker looks set to start this weekend if Russell Stock can't shake off the calf injury he picked up last weekend.
The young striker has looked lively since returning from an ankle injury that kept him out for six weeks.
'We've been trying to nurse him back into the side after the ankle injury he had but he is certainly pushing for a starting place. He is a great player to work with.
'Stocky has strained his calf but I think he came off early enough to make sure he didn't do any serious damage. Speaking to him he thinks he will be back sooner rather than later but we will wait and see.
'He's a big player for us and he's part and parcel of the run that we've been on recently. But when someone is out it provides a chance for somebody else and we've got some young lads knocking on the door of the first team.'